Selected Podcast

Ask Dr. Mike: Buying Supplements Overseas, Herbal Remedy Benefits & Medicinal Mushrooms

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans. Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

Is it best to do medicinal mushrooms as teas?

Dr. Mike thinks it depends on what your philosophy is on this... whether you like to take supplements in a whole foods form or not. Making a tea out of something is a form of processing and might be reducing the nutritional compounds of the mushroom.

What are botanicals and are they a separate category from supplements?

Botanicals is just a general term that means "plant-based" and is a type of supplement.

How can herbal remedies benefit my health?

Herbal products are loaded with powerful antioxidants that can help reduce oxidative stress, reduce chronic inflammation, reduce pain and help fight against illnesses and diseases.

I travel overseas. If I purchase supplements, are they safe?

This can be a tough question to answer, since in the U.S. DSHEA regulates how supplements are made, manufactured, and stored. Dr. Mike thinks it depends on where you're going and who you're buying from, since the regulations could be very different.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.844.305.7800) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: May 1, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

You're listening to RadioMD. It's time to ask Dr. Mike on Healthy Talk. Call or email to ask your questions now. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call now: 877-711-5211. The lines are open.

DR MIKE: So, Kimmie wants to know if it's best to do mushrooms--medicinal mushrooms. Not the psychotropic ones, but medicinal mushrooms. I'm adding that word medicinal. I assume Kimmie is talking about medicinal mushrooms. Kimmie wants to know if doing medicinal mushrooms is best as teas? You know, that's a good question. You can make a tea out of just about anything. Making a tea is more the process of steeping something over hot water. I just think it depends on what your philosophy is, Kimmie, in all this. You know if you're one of these—and by the way there's no right or wrong here. I'm just going to tell you there are two large categories of philosophies in the supplement industry. I'm over-simplifying but it works here.

On one hand, you have people who really believe in the whole essence of a food source or a plant source or whatever, meaning that if they're going to do something like reishi mushrooms, for instance, they want to do the whole mushroom. So, someone who really believes in the essence of the whole food might want to make a tea versus take an extract or something which by the way, an extract, that's the other philosophical way of looking at the supplement industry and that's kind of where I fall. I'm more of an extract type guy although the whole reishi mushroom is good. There's a lot of good components there. We know, for instance, if you really want to boost the immune system you want to get the key compound called "triterpenes". Triterpenes are the main constituent in reishi mushroom killer cells, for instance.

So, for me as an extract type guy, standardization type guy, I would rather take a capsule of reishi mushroom standardized to a certain amount of triterpenes to boost natural killer cells. But if you're on the other side of things, if you're more of a whole food person, you may not care so much about concentrating the triterpene so you can try teas and I don't think there is anything wrong with it. I think one thing to always understand—you know, making a tea out of something is processing it. And anytime you add a level of processing to something you're going to lose some of the compounds.

I mean, that's just—it is what it is. Taking the mushroom even out of the ground is processing. You've just removed it from it's natural setting/environment and you're changing it and that right there--that process alone--picking a plant, picking an apple, pulling the mushroom out, that's processing. And then, if you cut it up, that's processing and then you steep it over hot water-- that's processing. There is still benefit to gain there, Kimmie. Absolutely. But you are losing some of the compounds. Each step of processing decreases the amount of some of the key components, the healthy components of a food source, which is why you're doing it. So, that's just something to keep in mind that's all.

By the way, don't make a tea out of reishi. I shouldn't say that, I tried reishi tea once. It was horrible. Extremely bitter. I had that taste for like a week in my mouth. So, maybe reishi was a bad example, I don't know. Maybe you like it, Kimmie. But that's fine. You can make teas out of anything. That's perfectly fine. Just remember it is a level of processing. You're going to strip some of the compounds out. Okay, that was the first question.

This next one is kind of related it's about botanicals. What are botanicals? Mark is asking. And are botanicals a separate category from supplements? Well no it's just a way of classifying supplements. You have antioxidants and then even there you have subclasses you have amino acid antioxidants you have plant based antioxidants what have you.

No botanicals is just more of a general term that means plants, plant based. I think going back to this idea of whole food philosophy versus extract I think there are some purists, some whole food enthusiasts that consider the botanical to be more of the whole plant and those of us that do the extracts we don't really say botanical we call it plant extracts.

I don't know so there may be some ways that people use these terms that are different from one group to the other but botanical is just plant based and it's not a separate category from supplements it falls under the classification of a supplement but simply supplements your diet to bring in some extra nutrients that's all. I assume that's all you mean I'm not sure where else to go with this question so I'll leave it there.

The next one is kind of related to this as well. How can herbal remedies benefit my health? And I could do a whole seminar on answering that question. "How can herbal remedies benefit my health?" but I think most of the herbs are just loaded with antioxidants, so I think first and foremost herbal products are going to reduce what we call oxidative stress that can come from toxins in our environment--your own metabolism.

I mean, that's the first thing I think of when I think of herbs. They are just loaded with great antioxidants that can help the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the cerebral vascular system, bone, joints. The second category, then, from the antioxidants would be the anti-inflammatories that you find in a lot of herbal remedies. Many of the herbs that we use and I might throw spices into that as well.

Herbs and spices are able to inhibit some of the key inflammatory enzymes the cyclooxygenase, the lipoxygenase enzymes. Those are powerful pro-inflammatory enzymes. So, you have the antioxidants from herbs and spices. You've got the anti-inflammatories from herbs and spices. You also have anti-pain.

There's good evidence that a lot of herbs and spices are able to kind of bind to pain receptors but it doesn't stimulate the pain receptor, it blocks the stimulus from coming in and actually activating the pain receptor so you see? That's huge. Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-pain. I mean boom! That pretty much covers herbs and spices but going even a little bit further, I mean, you really have to start thinking about particular herbs and spices and what they can do. I mean, there's some that have anti-cancer properties, curcumin for instance.

There's some that are better at say the pain part of it, like tart cherry extracts. There are some herbs and spices that are better at the anti-inflammatory part but I think in answering the question, "How can herbal remedies benefit my health?" I think the best way to answer that is reducing oxidative stress, reducing chronic inflammation, and reducing pain. I mean, I think that would be that three broad categories.

Next question.

"I travel overseas. If I purchase supplements in other countries, are they safe?"

I mean, I think it depends on where you buy it from. That's a tough question to answer. In the United States--and I can speak about the United States because I'm involved with a company, Life Extension, and I know more of the rules.

In the United States, we have the DSHEA Law, dietary supplement, oh I always forget what DSHEA stands for. Dietary Supplement something something Health Act (DSHEA). It regulates how supplements are made and manufactured and stored in the United States. For instance, manufacturers have to follow GMP, good manufacturing practices. We have the National Science Foundation (NSF) that certifies places like Life Extension and makes sure that we're following the rules and then the FDA does regulate that stuff.

I think it depends on where you're going. I think you should be careful about buying things that you're not familiar with how that country regulates things. So, it's a tough question to answer. That's the best I can give you.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike, stay well.